TCS Daily


The Rise of Pajamas Media

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - May 20, 2005 12:00 AM

We've recently learned that Google News is seeking technology patents to rank stories on its news site "based on the quality of the news source." Naturally, this has caused concern among bloggers that their sites will be ranked lower -- or perhaps not ranked at all -- by Google News, but as blogger Jeff Goldstein notes, this decision by Google will open up a niche for Blogospheric aggregators like Pajamas Media.

What is Pajamas Media? Well, as co-founder Roger Simon explains, Pajamas Media has a twofold purpose. The first is to give bloggers access to more advertising revenue -- in addition to what many bloggers are receiving from Henry Copeland's BlogAds. The second is to develop a Blog News Network that will do what many bloggers fear Google will no longer do; aggregate blog posts on various topics and present them for bloggers and blog readers to peruse and search through.

My blog is signed up with Pajamas Media, so needless to say I wish the enterprise all the success in the world. But apart from any self-centered desires on my part, it seems to me that the development of Pajamas Media and its various operations -- as well as Google News's possible decision to no longer carry blogs as part of its news outlets -- might be a blessing in disguise.

I talked about this subject over the phone recently with Roger Simon and one of the issues we discussed was the need for the Blogosphere to grow and evolve from its current iteration. More and more people have learned and are learning about blogs and about the many ways in which the Blogosphere has challenged and expanded upon the offerings of the mainstream media. There is still the sense of insurgency around blogs and bloggers -- we do not even come close to making up the establishment in the way that Big Media do. But while the Blogosphere is still quite young, it is no longer an infant. And that means that bloggers naturally have to address new challenges and concerns.

The primary concern and challenge facing the evolving Blogosphere is that of making money for individual bloggers. We may not yet be at the stage where bloggers can make a living purely from their online writing, but we should try to get closer to that point. At the very least, blogging should be the source of some needed supplementary income that will make the activity economically -- as well as intellectually -- profitable and worthwhile. Pajamas Media seeks to do this -- as Roger points out -- by a business plan that would sell blog advertisements en masse to bloggers. This is a valuable concept because it would allow advertisers to view the Blogosphere as a giant demographic they can appeal and market to instead of merely picking and choosing amongst bloggers for the placement of ads. Like Roger, I laud and approve heartily of Henry Copeland's business plan which entails the latter approach to placing advertisements. Copeland's approach helped transform the entire concept of blog advertisements from a pipe dream to a living, waking reality. But Copeland's plan is not the only one we should consider and there is no inherent conflict between his method and the method being pursued by Pajamas Media.

As for the issue of an aggregating system, there is no disputing the fact that Google News is both extremely influential and exceedingly well-financed. Anyone who seeks to compete with Google News would find the task daunting, to say the least. But as Roger Simon pointed out in our discussion, Pajamas Media's Blog News Network need not compete with Google News. Rather, in the most extreme case, Google News can establish itself in the niche of aggregating Big Media stories while the Blog News Network can establish its own niche in aggregating blog posts. Each aggregator can work off of and profit from the efforts of the other. To employ a gaming metaphor, this is not a chess match between Google News and the Blog News Network where one side seeks to destroy the other. Rather, it is a Go contest where each side seeks a sphere of influence and where "winning" means letting one's opponent (insofar as Google News and the nascent Blog News Network actually are opponents of one another) profit from its own sphere of influence while one profits from one's own sphere and winnings. One side will come out ahead in the end, but any such victory is not achieved through a zero-sum arrangement.

Of course, it is entirely possible that Google News will continue to carry blogs as sources. That's fine as well. But if we consider the extreme case where blogs are entirely shut out of Google News, there is a prime opportunity for projects like Pajamas Media to make an impact -- one that paradoxically will extend the power and influence of the Blogosphere through both a new advertising scheme and an aggregating system focused on the Blogosphere. It is understandable that many bloggers worry about the Google News door possibly closing on them. But when one door closes, another opens and a wealth of opportunities can thus be found.

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